The Diekhoff Award honors John S. Diekhoff, who served Case Western Reserve University in several capacities during his tenure, from 1956 to 1970. He was professor of English, chair of the Department of English, dean of Cleveland College, acting dean of the School of Graduate Studies and vice provost of the University.
The Diekhoff Award, established in 1978, was first given the same year. It recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of graduate students through advising and classroom teaching. The annual award has been presented to two full-time faculty members who epitomize what it means to mentor graduate students: to connect them with experts in their discipline, engage them academically in a forthright and collegial manner, and actively promote their professional development. In 2009, the award was expanded to also recognize two full-time faculty members who excel in the teaching of graduate students. A committee of graduate and professional program students reviews nominations and recommends winners.
"Whatever strength I may have as a teacher grows out of my passion for research," says Hillel Chiel, who focuses on how the brain and body work together to generate behavior that allows animals to survive and reproduce. Chiel describes himself as "insatiably curious to understand how things work." Eager to collaborate with others who share this passion for knowledge, Chiel is dedicated to providing his students with what they need to succeed: intellectual tools, apprenticeship and autonomy. Chiel does this by trying to engage them in their work, encouraging them to explore different directions, helping them recognize their strengths and offering them psychological support. His goal in teaching is "to turn my students into my future colleagues."
Associate Professor of Physics
Harsh Mathur can credit his current shift in focus from condensed matter physics to cosmology and particle physics, in part, to his graduate students. Contemplating the switch for a while, Mathur didn't take the leap until he began working heavily with graduate students in cosmology. "I think focusing on something new helps me better relate to my students," says Mathur, who finds teaching graduate students one of the most rewarding parts of his job. "I enjoy learning the materials that I teach, and I think the students do as well."
Associate Professor of Macromolecular Science
In developing new composite materials and studying fuel-cell durability, David Schiraldi focuses his research on areas that target specific societal needs and answer fundamental questions. Yet, finding solutions isn't his ultimate goal. "I see research as a good education platform for students. Beyond service to our students, it is unlikely that most academic research will change that world—that is not how we accomplish change. We prepare students who go out and change the world—that is our role." Schiraldi helps create future leaders by pointing them in the right direction, giving them good projects and resources, letting them make small mistakes from which they learn, and allowing them to proceed with only a modest amount of interference.
Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Christian Zorman works to transform his graduate students into colleagues by giving them a high level of independence and responsibility, along with ample opportunities for collaboration across disciplines. Zorman considers a multidisciplinary approach essential to his work in micro- and nanotechnology. "Our collaborators point us to areas where our technology can best be applied, so I try to teach my graduate students the importance of developing and nurturing a network of collaborators." He knows he's done his job well when his students are as comfortable working with his collaborators—which include research groups in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cleveland Clinic, NASA Glenn Research Center and the Cleveland VA Medical Center—as they are with him.
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